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Jonathon Blum Comes of Age

Monday, 12.29.2008 / 4:23 PM CT / WorldJuniors
By Jay Levin  - Nashville Predators
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Jonathon Blum Comes of Age
When the Predators drafted Jonathon Blum two summers ago, many around the league questioned the pick. Nashville’s organization was loaded with young defensemen like established NHL stars Dan Hamhuis (just turned 26 earlier this month), Ryan Suter (23), and Shea Weber (23), up-and-comers Kevin Klein (24) and Ville Koistinen (26), and stud prospects like Alexander Sulzer (24), Teemu Laakso (21), and 2008 AHL All-Rookie Team honoree Cody Franson (21).

Blum’s selection seemed like a redundant addition of depth.

Fast forward 18 months and many scouts now consider Blum one of the elite defensemen in Canadian Juniors. Viewed as an undersized defenseman who might struggle against the bigger NHL forwards, Blum has added around 25 pounds since the time of his draft. His progress was noticeable at training camp.

“I saw a lot of progress in Jon from his first training camp to his second and it’s more to do with confidence,” Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “This year he wasn’t overwhelmed by the size of the guys, he wasn’t overwhelmed by meeting NHL guys, veteran guys he’s seen on TV. The confidence and the strength and maturity of young player are the biggest differences. He’s gotten stronger physically, as well. When we first got him, I think he was about 170 pounds and now he’s in the 195 range and still getting stronger.”

“Training camp was great,” Blum said. “I got a chance to look at the pros and see what they do to get better and try to take those things back to Juniors with me. Playing in the exhibition game was really an eye-opening experience. Just the more I get a chance to be around the pros and watch them, the more I’m able to learn from them.”

Blum, who placed second in the WHL in defensmen scoring last year with 63 points in 64 games, has carried the momentum from Preds Training Camp into the ’08-09 WHL season. Before leaving the Vancouver Giants for the World Juniors, Blum had 44 points in 28 games played, with a staggering +41 plus/minus rating, tops in the WHL.

“It’s gone really well so far,” Blum admitted. “The team is doing fantastic; we’re playing strong hockey. When the team is playing well, your numbers are going to look better, but I pleased with the start I’ve had.”

“He’s having an outstanding year; he’s probably the best defenseman in the Western Hockey League this year,” said Trotz. “I think the experience of being in (the World Junior Championships) tournament is a great experience for young players. It’s high pressure; you’re on a center stage. Every game’s covered on TV in Canada and 20,000 people are at the games in Ottawa, so it’s a big stage. Jon’s had that experience of being in big games, being in a Memorial Cup (with the Vancouver Giants) and winning that, being a part of the World Junior tournament has been huge. Those are experiences you can’t put an amount of how much experience or confidence a player can gain from that, those experiences have only gone to make him a better player.”

The start not only cemented Blum’s spot on Team USA for this year’s World Junior Championships, but helped him earn the team’s captaincy.

“It’s a huge honor anytime you’re asked to be a team’s captain,” said Blum. “And when it’s your country, it’s just an even greater honor. (Before the tournament opener against Germany), when I put on the USA jersey with the “C” it was pretty cool. I had to step back a little and look at it and let it sink in. It’s a once in a lifetime type of honor to be a captain of your country’s team.”

A returnee from last year’s U.S. World Junior team, Blum has some unfinished business. Last year the U.S. squad went undefeated through the preliminary round, but dropped a tough semifinal game to Canada (the eventual Gold Medal winner) and then a fell in the Bronze Medal game against Russia to take fourth place. Despite flying under the radar – media attention is focused on host Canada, a deep, skilled Sweden team, and Russia as the three top medal contenders – this year Blum wants to finish what the team started last year and take home the Gold.

“We obviously know we’re a good team inside our locker room, so we don’t really need the media or outside people to pick us. You win the games on the ice, not on paper or in the media. If people take us lightly, then we want to show them that it’s a mistake on their part. But we can’t worry about what people are writing or thinking about us, we can’t control that. We just have to go out and play the games and prove to everyone we’re as good as all of us in the locker room know we can be.”

“I think we might have the best first line in the tournament, keyed by Colin Wilson (with 2007 Entry Draft No. 2 overall pick James van Riemsdyk and projected 2009 top-10 pick Jordan Schroeder). Colin’s been unbelievable for us. He’s so strong on the puck. He makes guys look like boys in the corners and along the boards. And the way he’s able to get to the front of the net. He’s more confident now (than he was last year). He’s such a skilled player and he has a swagger to his game. He’s not cocky or overconfident, he just knows that he can make the plays and make a difference on the ice.”

Wilson, who also joined Blum with Team USA last year, sees improvement in Blum’s game, too. “He’s looked really good in the pre-tournament camp and games,” Wilson said of Blum. “He’s really stepped up in the defensive end, looks more physical this year. And as always he does a great job on offense; he always seems to find ways to get pucks to the net, which is especially important on the power-play. He’s just a solid all-around defenseman.”

Blum credits a lot of his success with the World Junior team to experience. “It’s easier this second time around. I know a little more what to expect. It’s a heck of a tournament; the best of the best at this age. I knew that last year, but having gone through it, I know what that really means.”





1 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70


F. Forsberg 82 33 31 1 64
R. Josi 81 14 47 -3 61
J. Neal 82 31 27 27 58
S. Weber 78 20 31 -7 51
M. Ribeiro 81 7 43 11 50
C. Smith 82 21 16 4 37
M. Ekholm 82 8 27 14 35
R. Johansen 42 8 26 10 34
R. Ellis 79 10 22 13 32
C. Jarnkrok 81 16 14 1 30
P. Rinne 34 21 10 .908 2.48
C. Hutton 7 5 4 .918 2.33